Why all or nothing?


General Photography

Kickstarter uses an all-or-nothing funding model, which, I think, doesn’t make as much sense as they probably think. Let’s say you want to raise $5,000. If you need the $5,000 to buy something that costs exactly $5,000 then you really need all the money. But for many photographers (I’m going to focus on just those for obvious reasons) this often is not how this might work. A photographer might be not overly happy, but still quite content to get “just” $4,000 instead of the $5,000. (more)

There are many different case scenarios where there could be the case. Let’s assume you want to do a road trip, you do your budgeting, and you figure you need $5,000. If you ended up with $4,000 you could still do the road trip - you’d just have to remove some expenses (cut the trip short or whatever else you could do). You’d basically reduce the scope of your project to make it fit the money you get - and that’s a situation photographers are very used to (unless they’re independently wealthy or get a grant).

In fact, that’s a situation everybody is used to: If you want to buy a car and the car costs $15,000 while you only have $14,000, you don’t decide not to buy any car. You will probably find a car that fits your budget. If you want to go on vacation, and your planned vacation would cost $1,000 while you only have $800, most people I know would make it work with $800: Go for fewer days, or stay at a cheaper hotel or whatever option there is.

Insisting on an all-or-nothing funding model essentially is an unnecessary simplification of what crowdfunding could really be. Why not instead work with two numbers, the amount of money the photographer wants to raise and the minimum amount of money that needs to be raised for the project to be possible at all? For the above example, that could be $5,000 and $4,000, say. You figure you’d really need $5,000 for your road trip, but you could cut some expenses and do the whole thing, in a somewhat reduced form, for less. Or maybe you want to photograph 50 people, but you could also just photograph 40. Or instead of producing 300 books you’d produce 200.

This would probably increase the numbers of successful pitches quite a bit, Kickstarter would make extra money (for them it’s a business, a way to make money), and it would give people more flexibility - both backers and photographers.

Of course, you could argue that if someone could do their project for $4,000 why don’t then then ask for just that? But that misses the point. When you budget your project, you want to budget it properly. You want to budget the project you want to do. Once you have that number you could then think about what number you could still work with - if the full amount doesn’t come through. Or you could even decide that if you raise $4,000 instead of the $5,000 you’d put the remaining $1,000 on a credit card.

Your potential backers would see the numbers, and they could base their decision on that. If someone asks for $5,000, but could also work with $4,000 (to do something a little reduced) that seems to make a lot of sense. In contrast, if someone asks for $5,000, but could also work with $2,000 - I’d probably think twice before funding that.